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Earth Day 2014!

Some fun meteorite facts related to the blue planet!

  • Up to 300 tons of space dust (including micrometeorites) fall to Earth every day.  In fact, so much cosmic dust ends up in our atmosphere that an international research project called CODITA (COsmic Dust In the Terrestrial Atmosphere) has been formed to study it – you can read more about it here, and learn how to collect your own micrometeorites here!

Frederic_Church_Meteor_of_1860The Meteor of 1860, oil painting by Frederic Church (Wikimedia Commons Image).

  • Not all fireballs result in meteorites hitting Earth.  While some meteors are caused by dust-sized particles that burn up when they enter Earth's atmosphere, occasionally, fireballs are the result of "Earth-grazing" meteors.  These Earth-grazers are objects that enter then leave our atmosphere (think of a stone skipping over water).  Though rare, there are famous examples of this phenomenon, which is referenced in Walt Whitman's poem "Year of Meteors".  You can read more about it here!

w-MurchisonMurchison was the first meteorite in which organic molecules were incontrovertibly identified, in 1970. Photo © ASU/CMS.

  • Meteorites from Earth could have carried life to other planets.  While it's long been acknowledged that meteorites landing on Earth contain organic molecules such as amino acids, and could have brought life to Earth (lithopanspermia), a study published in the journal Astrobiology has shown that it's statistically possible for Earth rocks to have been transported to other planets.  These rocks, produced by large impacts over the last 3.5 billion years, could have transported life from Earth as far as the moons of Jupiter and Saturn!  You can read more about it here!  Learn more about the organic molecules found in meteorites here and here!